What is Nord Stream 1 and how much gas does it deliver?
The Nord Stream 1 pipeline stretches 1,200 km (745 miles) under the Baltic Sea, from the Russian coast near St. Petersburg to northeastern Germany.
It opened in 2011 and can send a maximum of 170 million cubic meters of gas per day from Russia to Germany.
It is owned and operated by Nord Stream AG, whose majority shareholder is Russian state-owned Gazprom.
At the end of June, Germany imported 26% of its gas from Russia. Most of it goes through Nord Stream 1, with the rest coming from onshore pipelines.
Germany also agreed to the construction of a parallel gas pipeline – Nord Stream 2 – but it never became operational due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
How has Russia cut supplies and how is this hurting Europe?
In May, Gazprom shut down the Yamal gas pipeline, which crosses Belarus and Poland and delivers gas to Germany and other European countries.
Then, in mid-June, Gazprom cut gas deliveries via Nord Stream 1 by 75%, from 170 million cubic meters of gas per day to around 40 million cubic meters.
In early July, it shut down Nord Stream 1 for 10 days, citing the need for maintenance work.
Now, shortly after reopening, Gazprom has halved the quantity supplied to 20 million cubic meters.
When Russia announced its intention to restrict supply, in one day it had raised the wholesale price of gas in Europe by 10%.
Gasoline prices are now 450% higher than they were this time last year.
“The market is so tight right now that any disruption in supply leads to more gas price hikes,” said Carole Nakhle, CEO of analysts Crystol Energy.
“This could cause slowdowns in European economies and accelerate the road to recession.”
How does Europe react to supply cuts?
Gazprom says it is cutting supplies because it has to shut down one of the turbines for maintenance, but few in Europe believe that.
The German government has said there is no technical reason for Gazprom to limit supplies.
EU energy policy chief Kadri Simson called the decision “politically motivated”.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called it “an open gas war that Russia is waging against a united Europe”.
“Russia is increasingly weaponizing gas,” says Kate Dourian, a fellow at the Energy Institute.
“He’s trying to show he’s still an energy superpower and he can fight back [against] the sanctions that Europe has imposed on it.
What can Europe do?
Since the start of the war in Ukraine, Germany has been trying to obtain gas supplies from Norway and the Netherlands.
It is also buying five floating terminals to import liquefied natural gas from Qatar and the United States, Ms. Dourian explains.
However, this will involve the construction of new pipelines between the coast and the rest of Germany, which will take several months.
“You can’t develop a dependency on Russian gas like Germany did and quickly change your sources of supply,” says Nakhle.
Can the world do without Russian oil and gas?
Italy and Spain are trying to import more gas from Algeria.
Germany is also increasing its use of coal and extending the life of power plants it had planned to close – despite the environmental impact of these actions.
“It’s every man for himself,” says Ms. Dourian. “Everyone is taking their own steps to solve the energy shortage and making their own deals.”
How is Europe reducing gas demand?
The EU worked out an agreement in which member states reduced use by 15%.
Many European citizens are already taking action themselves.
“In Germany,” says Ms. Nakhle, “people buy wood-burning stoves and install solar panels. Everyone is taking steps to reduce their gas consumption.
“So we shouldn’t underestimate how seriously people take the prospect of gas shortages.”